I have had to deal with matted hair. It is not fun, but thankfully I can say that I never had to cut a section of matted hair off my head. I have had to trim a few knots afterwards, but no huge mats.
Ok, so somehow something went wrong with your hair and you're now looking at or holding a section of matted hair in your hand. You're cussin' up a storm because you're deep into your journey growing out your hair and you really don't want to deal with a setback like this! You're praying to your God, your ancestors, your cousin, the lady down the street, and anyone else you can think of, hoping that by some miracle you can save your hair...
...and it turns out, you CAN save your hair.
Here's what you do:
Firstly, I don't know about you, but when I have had to deal with matted hair, it was because shed hair that needed to be released from my head was not able to be released, and so it became entangled, and embedded into the rest of my hair in all directions, with no rhyme or reason. With normal tangles, the tangles are usually located on a particular part of the hair; With mats, the tangles are all over the hair, so the process of removing/undoing a mat is a little bit more involved and time consuming, but it can be undone.
1) Wet the mat.
Wet the section of matted hair, and give the water a second to penetrate your hair, this will help loosen up any dirt and product that could be contributing to the mat, and it will help with your hair's maneuverability.
2) Saturate your mat with oil and/or conditioner.
You already know that slip is what helps you remove tangles, and a mat is a tangle on CRACK! So, yank that slippery stuff through your hair and do not be conservative.
3) Begin to gently pull your mat apart and downward.
APART and DOWN. APART and DOWN. If you take away nothing else from this entry, remember: APART and DOWN. Since the tangled hairs are entwined in your hair in every which way, you want to try and spread apart the matt to help release hairs that are horizontally, and diagonally entangled in your hair. They are what's causing most of the problem. By pulling downward as you pull apart (gently), you will also help guide the shed hairs off your head. BE GENTLE.
4) Release individual hairs.
Once you've done enough pulling apart and down of the mat, you're probably still going to be left with a serious tangle or knot. Begin to ease out individual hairs from it, by gently pulling/sliding it out of the tangle. Continue to do this until you've released all hairs from the tangle. If you are left with a hair or two that is seriously caught in a knot, then trim off the knot. You will have cut some hair, but think about all the hair that you just saved. One or two hairs compared to a matted section of hair is nothing.
5) Stay Happy & Stay Nappy
Shit happens. We all make mistakes that might cost us. You are a human being, and it's allowed. Just learn from it, and keep on trucking. It's not about how you fall; it's about how you get back up when you do.
Peace and Blessings,